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Woodbury council members discuss giving themselves a raise

After five years without a pay increase, Woodbury City Council had to face an "awkward" subject Wednesday.

The city's human resources department requested council's input on their own pay, which staff said is about 30 percent less than the average wage for mayors and council members in comparable metro area suburbs.

Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens and the rest of the council come in last after cities like Bloomington, Maple Grove, Eden Prairie and Cottage Grove, according to a survey that human resources gathered.

"It shows that we are significantly behind other cities," said Jody Vogl, administration services director, adding that other cities have been addressing council and mayor wages more frequently than Woodbury has.

Stephen's annual compensation is $8,520, while each council member's pay is $6,540.

"I don't do this for the compensation, none of us do," council member Paul Rebholz said, adding, "I sort of don't care."

He said Woodbury's leadership does as good of a job as any of the other top 10 metro cities in the state, and wages, whether they stay the same or increase, will not affect that.

With a population of around 60,000, Burnsville's mayor gets a $17,100 annual paycheck, while council's wage is $8,400.

In Coon Rapids, with a population of about 61,000, the mayor's pay is $14,000 annually and council members get $12,250 each.

Just south of Woodbury, Cottage Grove's mayor's wages total $9,216 per year, while council members get $6,780, in a city with a population of around 34,000.

"We do have a population of 63,000, the council's time and commitment... is significant and it has significantly grown," Vogl said. "It's completely appropriate that we review this now and consider the extra hours."

City Council members are also participants of the Housing and Redevelopment Authority and Economic Development Authority, which were added in the last couple of years.

If council decides to raise their wages, it would not take effect until after the next election.

"It's awkward, but you look at the (League of Minnesota), council is the lowest," City Administrator Clint Gridley said.

Council members were hesitant to show support for a wage increase right off the bat, considering that it is part of the overall budget, in a time when cuts are eminent.

But Gridley said since there is still time until it's actually implemented, it might come at an economically better time.

"There isn't a rainbow appearing in 2013, but it is a full 14 months," he said.

It's a "double edge sword," council member Christopher Burns said, explaining that some residents may have a hard time accepting it, while others would understand the fact that council members are employed by the city, too.

Gridley advised the council to pull themselves away from the issue and think of it from a fair standpoint.

The council will revisit the issue in February, which will give them a few months before the November election to vote on a change that would begin in 2013.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.